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Refugees locked in football stadium on Greek island of Kos

Published 12/08/2015

Police officers try to make space as migrants queuing for a registration procedure inside a stadium in Kos, on the Greek southeastern island of Kos, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Police officers try to make space as migrants queuing for a registration procedure inside a stadium in Kos, on the Greek southeastern island of Kos, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Life vests left behind by migrants on left a deflated dinghy as children play on the beach after crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos (AP)

More than 1,000 refugees, locked in a sunbaked football stadium without food, drinking water or sanitation, queued for hours to register with Greek authorities on the island of Kos.

After sending police reinforcements, the government promised to charter a commercial ship to house up to 2,500 immigrants on the island where authorities have been overwhelmed by a spike in arrivals.

A migrant carries his child on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in an inflatable raft, on August 12, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
A migrant carries his child on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in an inflatable raft, on August 12, 2015. AFP/Getty Images

Alekos Flambouraris, an aide to the prime minister, said the vessel would be used to provide shelter and check documents. More details of the plan were to be announced tomorrow, his office said.

The order to charter the ship was given after violence broke out in front of a police station on the holiday island, where migrants were lining up to receive temporary residence documents.

Greece has become the main gateway to Europe for tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants, mainly Syrians fleeing war, as fighting in Libya has made the alternative route from north Africa to Italy increasingly dangerous. Nearly 130,000 people have arrived since January on the eastern Aegean Sea islands from nearby Turkey - a 750% increase over last year.

Kos mayor Giorgos Kyritsis welcomed the promised ship, but complained that the radical left-led government did little to help his island until Mr Flambouraris stepped in.

"The government was asleep," he told private Skai TV. "How come (now) we can talk normally with one minister?"

Tourism-reliant Kos, which received 7,000 migrants last month and has seen tourist arrivals drop by about 7% this year, is a stark study in contrasts.

Boatloads of refugees arrive at dawn - as the last of the revellers are straggling out of night clubs and joggers run along the seafront. Mega yachts and cruise ships anchor just off the detention centre, refugees sleep on bicycle lanes forcing cycling tourists to swerve, and bikini-clad visitors stroll along next to a man in a traditional Iraqi dress.

Scores of Syrians landed early today, crossing the 2.5-mile strait from Turkey in rubber boats - which, in many cases, local men rush to carry away for their own use.

A girl cries as hundreds of migrants gather for a registration procedure at the stadium of Kos town, on the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
A girl cries as hundreds of migrants gather for a registration procedure at the stadium of Kos town, on the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
A policeman (2nd-R) pushes a migrant as hundreds wait to complete a registration procedure by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOTS A migrant carries his child on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in an inflatable raft, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOTS Policemen try to disperse hundreds of migrants by spraying them with fire extinguishers during a gathering for a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos, on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wait to be registered by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. Tensions on the tourist island are high with its mayor claiming there were 7,000 migrants stranded on Kos, which has a population of only 30,000 people. A Kos police officer was suspended on August 10 after being filmed slapping and shoving migrants queueing outside the local police station as they waited to be documented so they could go on to Athens. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Greek police stand guard as hundreds of migrants wait to complete a registration procedure by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. Tensions on the tourist island are high with its mayor claiming there were 7,000 migrants stranded on Kos, which has a population of only 30,000 people. A Kos police officer was suspended on August 10 after being filmed slapping and shoving migrants queueing outside the local police station as they waited to be documented so they could go on to Athens. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A migrant drinks water as he waits with hundreds of others to complete a registration procedure by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. Tensions on the tourist island are high with its mayor claiming there were 7,000 migrants stranded on Kos, which has a population of only 30,000 people. A Kos police officer was suspended on August 10 after being filmed slapping and shoving migrants queueing outside the local police station as they waited to be documented so they could go on to Athens. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A policeman pushes a migrant as hundreds wait to complete a registration procedure by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. Tensions on the tourist island are high with its mayor claiming there were 7,000 migrants stranded on Kos, which has a population of only 30,000 people. A Kos police officer was suspended on August 10 after being filmed slapping and shoving migrants queueing outside the local police station as they waited to be documented so they could go on to Athens. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wait to be registered by the police at a stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wait behind a fence outside a stadium in order to be registered by the police on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants gather outside the stadium where they go through a registration procedure by the police on the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants arrive on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in an inflatable raft, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants get out of an inflatable boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants hug one another after getting out of an inflatable boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants get out of an inflatable boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 12, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants flash the "V for Victory" sign as they arrive in a boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 11, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A migrant holds his child as they arrive on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 11, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wearing life jackets arrive on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, on August 11, 2015. The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, but the Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves them wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said on August 7. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Migrants wait for a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos, on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A migrant child cries (C) during a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos, on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
Policemen try to disperse hundreds of migrants by spraying them with fire extinguishers during a gathering for a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos, on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A policeman confronts a migrant with a truncheon during a registration procedure at the stadium on the Greek island of Kos on August 11, 2015. Police on the Greek island on Kos hit migrants with truncheons to prevent a stampede, a day after an officer was caught on camera slapping a migrant. The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants were being relocated to a local football stadium, after camping alongside roads and beaches across the island for weeks. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINISANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images
A policeman tries to disperse hundreds of migrants by spraying them with a fire extinguisher, during a registration procedure which was taken place at the stadium of Kos town, on the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. Fights broke out among migrants on the Greek island of Kos Tuesday, where overwhelmed authorities are struggling to contain increasing numbers of people arriving clandestinely on rubber dinghies from the nearby Turkish shore. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Police officers try to make space as migrants queuing for a registration procedure inside a stadium in Kos, on the Greek southeastern island of Kos, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Locked in a sunbaked football stadium without food, drinking water or sanitation, about 1,000 refugees queued for hours Wednesday to register with overwhelmed Greek authorities on the holiday island of Kos, now at the forefront of a humanitarian crisis sweeping the financially broken country. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Syrian migrants and refugees gather at a makeshift migrant detention center at Kos' abandoned football stadium after crossing from Turkey, at the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Locked in an abandoned football stadium without food, drinking water or sanitation, about 1,000 refugees queued for hours Wednesday to register with overwhelmed Greek authorities on the holiday island of Kos, at the forefront of a humanitarian crisis sweeping the financially broken country. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: Migrants climb a wall of the national stadium where a registration exercise for the migrants is taking place on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: A Syrian refugee gesticulates as Syrian refugees are pushed by riot police trying to maintain an orderly line during a registration procedure at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: A Greek riot police officer stands guard as migrants and refugees wait to be registered at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: A Greek riot police officer stands guard as migrants and refugees wait to be registered at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: Migrants climb a wall of the national stadium where a registration exercise for the migrants is taking place on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: A father protects his children while migrants and refugees are pushed as riot police try to maintain an orderly line during a registration exercise at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 12: Greek riot police officers stand guard as migrants and refugees wait to be registered at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Greek police used fire extinguishers and batons to keep migrants in check on the island after violence broke out in a sports stadium where hundreds of people, including children, were awaiting their immigration papers. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

"I feel good to be here, but I still miss my family" in Syria, said Omar Mohammad, a 25-year-old English literature graduate from Aleppo.

He said the three-hour crossing from Turkey was his third attempt to reach Greece in four days. On two previous occasions, Turkish officials had prevented him from leaving.

Unlike during past immigration crises in Greece since the early 1990s, this time the refugees don't want to stay. Their destinations are wealthy countries such as Germany or the Netherlands, and all they seek from Greece is temporary travel papers to continue their trek through the Balkans and central Europe.

Migrants get out of an inflatable boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos. AFP/Getty Images
Migrants get out of an inflatable boat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos. AFP/Getty Images

So they end up in the old football stadium or outside on the beachfront, in tents, or under trees.

Inside the stadium, three police clerks were struggling to register hundreds of refugees, and for the second day used fire-extinguishers to control the jostling crowd. An estimated 300 travel documents were handed out by early afternoon.

The office on Kos for Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, strongly deplored the conditions in the stadium, where most refugees were sent after being evicted from makeshift camps all around the town.

A Syrian refugee gesticulates as people are pushed by riot police trying to maintain an orderly line during a registration procedure at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
A Syrian refugee gesticulates as people are pushed by riot police trying to maintain an orderly line during a registration procedure at the national stadium on August 12, 2015 in Kos, Greece (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

"What we see now is a completely disproportionate focus on security management of these people without the relative humanitarian assistance that they need," said Vangelis Orfanoudakis from the charity.

"There are just two toilets. No access to water. They now have put a water hose for all the people, the situation is really dramatic," he said.

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